The ‘Smart City Mission’ is a ground-breaking initiative launched by the Indian government in 2015 to change the nation’s urban landscape. The government’s principal objective is to turn all Indian cities into smart cities by utilizing technology and encouraging local development. To accommodate the growing urban population, the government wants to renovate existing regions, generate jobs for people, and develop new places. A smart solution in cities would comprise the use of technology, information, and data to improve infrastructure and services. A comprehensive development like this would improve people’s quality of life, provide jobs, and increase their income. The core objective of India’s smart city mission is to give its citizens a high quality of life, a safe and secure environment, and smart solutions for everyone. A smart city encourages towns to be more sustainable by providing the necessary infrastructure. Smart individuals who can successfully engage in reformation and governance are essential for the smart city’s objective. The participation of the country’s citizens in governance is critical. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the smart cities’ mission in India, including its aims, objectives, selection process, features, vision, and problems.

An overview of Smart Cities Mission (India) - Sheet1
Smart City Mission_©Infiltron

What is the mission of the Smart Cities Initiative?

The National Smart Communities Mission was inaugurated on June 25, 2015, to encourage cities to use “smart solutions” to offer fundamental infrastructure, a sustainable and clean environment, and a fair quality of life for their citizens. The Smart Cities Mission aims to boost economic growth and increase people’s quality of life by facilitating local area growth and using technology, particularly technology that contributes to Smart results. In collaboration with the state governments, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) is the designing and implementing ministry. It’s a federally funded initiative that started with 100 communities and will be expanded to 200 cities between 2019 and 2023. 

Smart Cities concentrate on their most critical demands and possibilities to enhance people’s lives. To make a difference, they use a variety of strategies, including information and digital technologies, best practices in urban planning, public-private collaborations, and policy reform. The emphasis is on environmental and equitable development, intending to create a repeatable model that would serve as a beacon for other aspiring communities. The Smart Cities Mission is intended to provide examples that may be repeated both within as well as outside of the Smart City, therefore catalyzing the formation of comparable Smart Cities across the country.

An overview of Smart Cities Mission (India) - Sheet2
Smart City in a box_© Surbana Jurong and Microsoft

Objective

The goal of the smart city initiative is to enhance inclusive and sustainable cities which provide core infrastructure to provide a decent quality of life and a sustainable and clean environment by the use of smart solutions such as data-driven vehicular networks and intelligent lighting systems, among others.

The following are the basic infrastructural aspects of a Smart City:

  1. A sufficient supply of water
  2. Uninterruptible power supply
  3. Sanitation, which includes solid waste management, is important.
  4. Public transportation and efficient urban mobility
  5. Affordable housing, primarily for the poor
  6. Digitalization and strong IT connection
  7. E-government and public involvement are examples of good governance.
  8. Environmental sustainability and citizen safety, particularly for women, children, and the elderly
  9. Education and health
  10. The emphasis is on environmental and equitable development, to create a reproducible model that may serve as a model for other aspiring communities.

Strategy

In India’s 100 Smart Cities Mission, area-based development includes city development (retrofitting), city rejuvenation (redevelopment), and city expansion (greenfield development), as well as a pan-city programme.

Area-based improvement that will use retrofitting and redevelopment to turn existing neighbourhoods, including slums, into better-planned residential zones, ultimately increasing the city’s habitability. Greenfield developments will create new regions in the city to support the city’s growing population. Pan-city development entails the integration of smart technologies into the city’s current infrastructure.

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Analysis of Smart City in Indian Scenario_© Grant Thorton

The Smart City Administrative Structure 

The Smart City Administrative Structure Guidelines provide monitoring at three levels: national, state, and local.

National: An Apex Committee, chaired by the Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development and comprised of members from associated ministries and organizations, is responsible for approving proposals, monitoring progress, and disbursing funding.

State: The Smart City Mission will be led by a High-Powered Steering Committee (HPSC), which will be chaired by the Chief Secretary of the State.

All Smart Cities have a Smart City Advisory Forum, which includes the District Collector, and the Chief Executive Officer of a Special Purpose Vehicle (an SPV is formed for city-level implementation). Its responsibilities include releasing funding, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating Smart City development initiatives), and members of Parliament to advise and facilitate collaboration with members of the Legislative Assembly, the Mayor, local youth, technical specialists, and representatives of the area Resident Welfare Association.

An overview of Smart Cities Mission (India) - Sheet4
Smart City Ecosystem_©Strategy of Things

How many smart cities are there in each state or territory?

The mission will visit 100 cities which have been evenly dispersed across the States/Union Territories (UT) based on a set of criteria. The methodology assigns the State/urban UT’s population and the number of statutory towns (a town with a municipality, corporations, cantonment board, or notified town area committee) in the State/UT identical weighting (50:50). According to this model, each state/UT will have a specific number of prospective Smart Cities, with at least one in each State/UT. 

The number of possible Smart Cities in each State/UT will be limited to the number specified. The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation – AMRUT – has also utilized this distribution technique to allocate cash. After two years of Mission execution, the allocation of Smart Cities will be reviewed. The Ministry of Urban Development may be forced to re-allocate the remaining prospective Smart Cities among States based on an evaluation of the progress of States/ULBs in the Challenge.

An overview of Smart Cities Mission (India) - Sheet5
List of Potential Smart Cities_©IPE Global

Smart cities funding

The Smart City Mission would be run as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), with the Central Government proposing to fund it to the tune of Rs. 48,000 crores over five years, or Rs. 100 crore per city each year on average. The State/ULB would be required to provide an equivalent amount on a matching basis; hence, almost Rs. 1 lakh crore in Government/ULB money will be accessible for Smart City construction.

Integration with other Government Programs

Comprehensive development happens when the physical, institutional, social, and economic infrastructures are all integrated into a given area. Many of the government’s sectoral plans converge on this aim, while the approach is varied. The AMRUT and the Smart Cities Mission have a great synergy in terms of accomplishing urban change. AMRUT takes a project-based approach, whereas the Smart Cities Mission takes an area-based approach. Convergence of other State and Central Government Programs/Schemes with the Smart Cities Mission can also yield significant benefits. Cities should attempt convergence in the SCP alongside AMRUT, National Heritage City Development, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), as well as Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY)- an External Website that launches in a new window, and other initiatives at the planning stage. Digital India, skill development, Housing for All, Museum building financed by the Culture Department, and other social infrastructure initiatives like Health, Education, and Culture. 

An overview of Smart Cities Mission (India) - Sheet6
Urban Agglomeration in India_©Randy Olson

Ten potential characteristics for India’s upcoming 100 smart cities

  1. Information, communications, and technology (ICT)-enabled governance structures: IT-enabled administration and governance will fully rule the smart city. The implementation of integrated technology solutions that are easily available across many devices to promote access, transparency, speed, engagement, and redress in public services is sometimes referred to as “smart government.”
  2. After IT, efficient utilities — energy, water, solid waste, and effluents – are frequently discussed. Smart metres, energy conservation, water harvesting, renewable energy, effluent recycling, and scientific solid waste disposal systems will all be prominent features of the future smart city.
  3. Meaningful PPPs: A crucial feature of the smart city idea is the innovative use of public-private partnerships (PPPs). PPPs will be utilised not just to provide much-needed financing, but also to ensure that utilities are delivered efficiently and to agreed-upon service-level standards. PPPs might cover a wide range of services, ranging from health care to street lighting systems.
  4. Safety and security are high on the public’s mind, especially in light of disturbing news about women’s safety, road rage, robbery assaults on the elderly, and youth misbehaviour. Video surveillance networks, well-lit public places, extensive patrolling and monitoring, identity-verified access, and quick action to emergency calls are on the list of expectations.
  5. To “take responsibility for their destinies” in terms of financial sustainability. Financial freedom is the most crucial aspect of this. This is only achievable with a comprehensive and wide tap of all income streams, including property taxes, ads, and the ability to raise long-term debt such as municipal bonds.
  6. Citizen-participative local government: Encouraging residents to participate enthusiastically in local concerns necessitates careful design of electoral and participatory processes for everybody.
  7. Sufficient social capital: Smart cities cannot exist without enough social infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals, public spaces, athletic and recreational facilities, and retail and entertainment outlets. It must have a heart which beats to the delights of daily existence, in addition to a working brain and moving hands and legs.
  8. “Walk-to-work” is the ideal answer in these transit-oriented ecosystems. Nonetheless, the expectation matrix includes readily networked public transit with first- and the last-mile connection, reduced desire to use personal automobiles, the use of electric cars, and cycling routes.
  9. Green features: Carbon footprint reduction and environmental friendliness are mandatory. Parks and green areas are required, as is the absence of pollution, the use of renewable energy, conservation, and recycling.
  10. India has 5,545 urban agglomerations, which meet the minimum population criterion. Class 1 towns (sometimes known as cities) have a density of 100,000 or more. For a smart city, this should be the minimal population cut-off. 
An overview of Smart Cities Mission (India) - Sheet7
Urban Management Infrastructure_©GOI

What are the complexities?

This is the first time that a MoUD programme has used a ‘Challenge’ or competition technique to choose cities for financing, as well as an area-based development plan. The essence of ‘cooperative and competitive federalism’ is captured in this phrase. States and local governments will play a crucial role in the establishment of Smart Cities. Smart leadership with vision at this level, as well as the capacity to move decisively, will be critical to the Mission’s success. Capacity support will be required to help policymakers, implementers, and other stakeholders at all levels understand the ideas of retrofitting, redevelopment, and greenfield development. Before participating in the Challenge, significant time and resource expenditures will be required during the planning phase. This is not the same as the traditional DPR-driven method. Smart individuals who play an active role in governance and transformation are required for the Smart Cities Mission. Citizen participation in government is much more than a token gesture. The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will enable clever people to participate by boosting the use of ICT, particularly mobile-based solutions.

India’s first smart city_©Dholera smart city

Conclusion

COVID-19 has impacted practically every country on the planet, creating major economic and healthcare problems. However, in the months after the lockout, the ambition to construct 100 smart cities in India has witnessed a boost, with money almost doubling in use. One of the most pressing issues confronting smart cities is how to fund them. Smart city infrastructure necessitates a significant financial commitment. For the effective implementation of India’s smart city initiative, the government is focusing on increasing Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) (at present, about 21 per cent of the funding of the smart cities projects is via the PPP model). Sterlite Power, for example, signed a PPP agreement with the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) in June 2020 to develop and maintain the fibre network in Gurugram Suburban. 

For the past 21 years, City 2 has been my home. India has nearly 4,000 urban local bodies and cities, with potential in housing, sanitation & cleanliness, livelihood, information technology, health and education, transportation, and the environment, among other things. The government is prioritizing the financial and IT services industries for investment, and top economies throughout the world have expressed curiosity about the Smart City Mission.

The mission is a wise and growing action that requires careful preparation, implementation, and ongoing monitoring. By 2030, urban regions are predicted to house 40% of India’s population and generate 75% of the country’s GDP. The Smart Cities Mission is an urban city development programme in India. The government is putting innovative goods and ideas to the test as part of numerous programmes to efficiently execute ‘Smart Cities.’ For efficient project planning and execution, initiatives like the Smart Cities Forum bring together collaborative perspectives from all key sectors. In addition, private-sector companies are cooperating with cities to produce innovative goods and services that address local requirements.

References:

  1. Guha, A. (n.d.). Smart cities. Retrieved from Deloitte: https://www2.deloitte.com/in/en/pages/public-sector/articles/smart-cities.html
  2. IBEF. (2021, March 31). Revitalising ‘India’s Smart City Mission’. Retrieved from Indian Brand Equity Foundation: https://www.ibef.org/blogs/revitalising-india-s-smart-city-mission
  3. India.Gov.In. (n.d.). Smart Cities Mission: A step towards Smart India. Retrieved from India.gov.in: https://www.india.gov.in/spotlight/smart-cities-mission-step-towards-smart-india
  4. Meta. (2015, December 21). Smart Cities in India: An Overview. Retrieved from The center for internet & society: https://cis-india.org/internet-governance/blog/smart-cities-in-india-an-overview
  5. Singhal, N. S. (2022). Smart Cities Mission in India: A Review. Springer, vol 860.
Author

An aspiring urbanist, who is trying to explore herself through architectural writing currently, she believes that the remedy for a healthy planet begins with designing responsive spaces. She is an optimistic, determined and curious person who is always eager to learn and improve her skills.

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